Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Become a Fan of the Culinary Librarian on Facebook!

I've made a Facebook page to quickly share links, photos, and musings longer than 140 characters! 
Feel free to "Like" me to be updated on all sorts of on-goings!

I've been considering doing a giveaway ... so maybe if I reach a certain number of followers on Facebook/Blogger/Twitter I will decide what to do! 

Hope you like the postings. Please feel free to upload links & photos you think your fellow readers would enjoy! 

Great resource for starting Culinary Research from NYPL's Rebecca Federman!

From the Cooked Books Blog
"A Guide to Culinary Research" by Rebecca Federman, the NYPL's culinary librarian. 
Follow her on Twitter! @cookedbooks

This information definitely would have helped me doing some research for college papers and will help me researching now! 

Her first point about the keyword "cookery" is very true even if it seems a little odd. 
Go get one of your cookbooks and look at the copyright page-- look all the way at the bottom of the page where the book is classified and... ta-da!:
I. Cookery
Usually listed first then further classified into a regional cuisine (many of my cookbooks say "Cookery, French"). Even some of your favorite food memoirs will have Cookery listed-- definitely the place to start!!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Food Rules: A review of Michael Pollan's guidebook on "What to Eat"

I've been hesitating to buy Michael Pollan's "Food Rules" because I have read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" as well as half of "In Defense of Food" and figured most of what he spells out in his set of 64 rules I would have already received from reading his two other most popularized books ("The Botany of Desire" is his other less discussed food related works). I had a little money left on a Barnes & Noble gift card I had from Christmas which was just enough to almost totally cover the cost of the little $11 volume-- so I picked it up Friday night and planned to read it sometime this weekend. I ended up finishing it in about an hour and 15 minutes on my bus ride home Saturday morning-- easy enough to read and valuable advice for anyone who does.

The little manual is a quick and enjoyable read filled with common sense and smart tips for simple ways to improve the way one eats. When I read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" I was entirely captivated through the first two-thirds of the book, then I began losing interest as his writing began to meander a bit. The conciseness of "Food Rules" makes it easy for Pollan to complete this tiny volume without ever seeming to be writing to fill publisher's space. The rules are sound and straightforward and easy to begin implementing immediately. 

Pollan's introduction hits on some of the points he makes in his two popular works which boils down to how capitalistic food has become and how that fact is generally bad for human health (but good for the economy). Healthy people make for reduced need for doctors, hospitals, medicine, diets, diet plans, etc. Capitalism may be killing us and Pollan's rules could help reverse some of the negative effects making food profitable has caused. The politics of food is a constantly ongoing conversation today, which I hope does not end up muddying why the exchange began and become about something different. 

I don't know that I can argue most Americans are aware of the effect processed food has on our health and general well-being but as a nation we are certainly making strides towards a holistic understanding thanks to things like PBS airing "Food Inc." on Earth Day and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution receiving a primetime spot on network television. I believe in America and Americans and think that we can change the way we all eat and the way we relate to food. "Food Rules" would be a good place for anyone unfamiliar with the food revolution to start changing their eating habits with sensible advice. Without reading further into the elaborate system of food production set-up in this nation a reader of "Food Rules" can start implementing some of Pollan's rules and will see the effects without having to read about it. 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

Rule 12: "Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle" 
An easy way to change the way we shop and an eye-opener for someone who has never considered all the fresh food is kept on the outer edge of the grocery store. 

Rule 14: "Eat foods made from ingredients you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature" 
Simple enough right? But how often do we eat things we can't pronounce let alone picture? I've been trying it out this weekend and it really helps eliminate a lot of the highly manufactured foods we should be avoiding anyway. 

Rule 35: "Eat sweet foods as you would find them in nature" 
Pollan makes an excellent point about eating the way nature intended it. The planet was so perfectly created to be balanced that even the way we get foods that we find appealing i.e. sweets, in nature come paired with things to help us digest them and live best, i.e. fiber! 

Rule 39: "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself"
This is one of my top favorites!! Living in Manhattan with the prevalence of sweet treats coming at me from every angle-- even in trucks! I think that this rule is one people could easily take the wrong way, but making your own treats is enjoyable, you know what goes into them, and you tend to not want to devour them as quickly after the work you put in them to make it. Maybe i'll bake myself some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies tomorrow? 

Rule 43: "Have a glass of wine with dinner" 
Certainly one most people can take to quickly! My friend Jocelin believes in having a drink a day and it seems she is right to believe in the benefits of it. Here Pollan discusses the French Paradox and how it is they seem to be so much healthier than us, and nods to the gentle consumption of wine with leisurely meals of small plates with friends is certainly one of the things they are doing right. The key here is balance and to not over do it and end up drunk at the end of dinner! 

Rule 44: "Pay more, eat less"
While I believe in this principle of this rule, it is hard for a single person on a budget to take up. The thing that I can do best for myself is to only buy food I know I will be able to consume/freeze before it goes bad and to generally not buy more than I need. Luckily vegetables (Following Pollan's main advice "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.") are not too expensive, especially if I get them at a farmer's market. 

I plan on trying to stick to some of Pollan's rules and see how easy they are to incorporate into my daily habits. I'll start by focusing on these favorites I've selected and gradually include more and do my best to update you in the blog or on twitter. 

Check Pollan's book out of your local library, take an hour to go read it in the store, or if you can afford its low price pick it up for yourself and make notes! Write about the foods you eat with ingredients you can't pronounce or picture, the junk you could make at home for yourself so it takes out a lot of the junk, write-up a cheat sheet for yourself when you go grocery shopping, photo copy some of the pages and post them on the fridge for your family to read without thinking about it and in turn start thinking about what they eat before they consume it. 

Start your own revolution! 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Back in November I realized how little I had seen Thanksgiving as a major 'foodie' holiday even though the main thing about the holiday is a whole sharing a similarly huge meal, this to is true for Mother's Day. 

There is always the idea of breakfast in bed for Mom and a big brunch. The deeper fact of the matter is that the role of cook has historically been assigned to Mom. We expect to receive the best advice on how to live well from our mothers and our grandmothers and a lot of that advice is related to how we eat. We develop our habits in our upbringing and how we eat is nigh solely influenced by how we are fed as children. Mother's Day is for celebrating, honoring, and ensuring Mom knows how special she is-- which can best be shown by giving her a day off from the kitchen and pampering her for all the hard work she does throughout the year. 

For me, my Mom has been one of my greatest culinary influences. She is the one who first taught me the science of baking, the joys of trying different flavors, the techniques of food preparation and little tips and words of wisdom not easily found compiled in any one book. My family has been truly blessed to have a very talented mother in the kitchen. Dinner was always something different, always delicious, and usually somewhat extravagant on an every day basis. There was no reason for us not to have lobster or filet mignon -- or both together-- once in a while, especially when they were on sale. She also mastered more than the daily dinner routine in the baking department; just imagine the most beautiful and delicious birthday cake you have ever had for your special day-- then imagine getting it, whatever flavor you want (even just a super fancy cheesecake with writing baked into the top!) for each birthday of your childhood AND made by your own mother! How special! We always make a lot of Christmas cookies while singing all our favorite Christmas songs. 

My mom is really the person who established my relationship to food. There is always so much to learn and always so much I can learn from cooking with her or watching her cook. She usually never uses a recipe unless its something brand new she wants to try or she needs to know a ratio to get something to come out right. She truly cooks from her heart with an innate feeling for the kitchen. She is always willing hear about a new recipe I've tried or want to try; since fleeing the nest she is ALWAYS the person I call for quick answers to how-to questions (and even before I left! I remember making souffles for the first time and having no idea how to separate egg yolks from egg whites and I called her while she was out and she knew just what to do!). I couldn't imagine I would be quite the foodie I am today without my mother's influence! 

Here she is in our kitchen on Thanksgiving with me and maybe little chef Milana (my niece) to be!

So on this Mother's day I just wanted to share a little bit about my own Mommy who is a my very own culinary master. I hope you all honored your mother in a special & delicious way today and keep in mind what sort of person you might have become without her in your life! 

I love you, Mom! Thank you for everything you do for me always and all that you have taught me these past 23 years! Keep up the good work! 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Moleksine Passions: RECIPE JOURNAL!

Successful day in the city-- my first Saturday in NYC since the beginning of April-- which didn't even count because I was entertaining my parents! I was determined to make the most out of today-- and so I did! 

Started out sleeping way to long after the amazing Hanson premiere performance of their new album "Shout It Out!" due out June 8th. Check it out! Then I went up to one of my very very favorite places in the city-- Kitchen Arts & Letters. I was browsing and on the table by the door where they feature what's new and I discovered the Moleksine Recipe Journal. It is perfect. Its compact, well laid out, comes with stickers for the blank sections and to qualify your recipes, even has additional templates available for printing online-- and my favorite part AN INDEX! It is the perfect start to writing your very own cookbook! 

I've been thinking about starting a recipe notebook but I really don't like starting new things if they'll be done haphazardly at the start because it makes it harder to organize later on. This Carnet Recettes is the perfect beginning and I think I will start using it today! 

After I went to Kitchen Arts & Letters (and then dropped off a stack of 15 CDs to the library!) I hopped on the 6 down to Union Square to check out the Green Market (another thing I can only do on the weekend and have not been able to being away). I was on a mission to find some farm fresh leeks-- just because-- but there were none today. Whole Foods was the answer-- I also picked up some fresh cherries (yum yum!) & saffron threads. I've never used saffron before but after reading the Saveur paella feature I've been wanting to. I think I'm going to do a risotto with saffron tonight (I've been looking for bomba or calasparra rice in the stores but have yet to find any). Also while in Union Square area I stopped by the Strand to pick up Chef Ludo Lefebvre's Crave: A Feast of the Five Senses which I currently have out of the library but didn't want to start cooking out of the libraries in case I wanted to make notes, etc in the book. The cover features a photo of Chef Ludo intensely looking at his readers with his brown eyes, how can anyone resist (see what I mean? owh-owh!)! Hoping to someday cook his "Lobster Poached in vanilla with melon, mango, papaya, avocado, and aged balsamic vinegar and honey vinaigrette." It looks/sounds insanely delicious but involves wayyy too many expensive ingredients for me to cook on a whim (vanilla bean, lobster, aged balsamic).